Home-grown Peas

    • Spring vegetables can be planted now from nursery starts. Begin your garden with broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, chard and onions. It pays to grow your own – especially this year!
    • Pansies and violas will fill your spring flower beds with their bright faces in many shades of blue, yellow, red, pink and purple.
    • Flowering dogwoods and tulip magnolias can be planted now during the dormant season from balled & burlapped specimens.
    • Prune wisteria trees and vines by cutting out unwanted long runners and removing old seed pods. Don’t damage flower buds that are clustered at the end of short branches.
    • Choose a peach tree for your orchard and enjoy luscious fresh peaches in the summers to come.

Home-grown Peas for Sweet Picking

Peas are loved by young and old alike. They deserve their popularity, because they are both good for you and easy to grow! Peas have been around since the earliest times, primarily as dried peas. Lots of breeding has been done on peas, so there are now many different kinds with different characteristics.

Peas come in dwarf or bush types which grow 15-30 inches high or in climbing varieties which grow 4-6 feet and will become tangled if you don’t give them something to climb on. Peas are classified into three types:

    • Shelling peas have tough pods that are too fibrous to eat, with sweet, tasty morsels inside. A 10-foot row will yield 4-6 lbs. or 1-1½ qts. of shelled peas.

    • Snow peas or sugar peas are flat and have a few small peas inside. They are eaten whole when their pods are still young and tender. This is the kind used in Asian stir-fry meals.

    • Snap peas also have edible pods and they snap like green beans when they are ready to eat. The pod grows tightly around the peas. They should be picked when young and tender. Check for strings along the center vein, as some cultivars need to have the strings pulled before eating.

Peas are a cool season crop. They should be planted when the soil temperature is at least 55°F, but before it gets too warm. This usually means March in Willits where heavy soils are slow to warm up.

Sow seeds about one inch deep and two inches apart in the row. Low-growing varieties can be grown in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Climbers need three feet between rows, or plant a double row six inches apart on either side of a trellis. Protect them from birds, and they should germinate in 10-14 days. You can also find starter plants at the nursery.

Once peas begin to reach the appropriate stage for harvesting, they should be picked at least every other day to assure sweet, fiber-free pods. Shelling peas have the best quality when they are fully expanded but immature, before they become hard and starchy.

Snow peas are harvested when the pods have reached their full length, but the peas are still small and the pods are flat. This stage is usually reached 5 to 7 days after flowering. Sugar snaps are at their best when the pods first start to fatten but before the seeds grow very large. At this point, the pods snap like green beans and the whole pod can be eaten.

Vining types of both sugar snap and snow peas continue to grow taller and produce peas as long as the plant stays in good health and the weather stays cool.

Peas are best used as soon as possible after harvest, but may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days if cooled immediately. For best quality, freezing and canning should be done within a few hours after picking.

When peas are planted in a new area, you can increase the yield by inoculating peas with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria called an inoculant. In an established garden, inoculation is less necessary, but it is a relatively inexpensive process that will increase vigor and yield.

Enjoy fresh peas straight from your garden by planting them now when the time is right!

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